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Uzbekistan
03.05.21
Urgent Interventions

Uzbekistan: Attack and judicial harassment against blogger Miraziz Bazarov

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

UZB 001 / 0521 / OBS 054
Attack /
Judicial harassment /
Restrictions to freedom of expression
Uzbekistan
May 3, 2021


The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your intervention in the following situation in Uzbekistan.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the physical attack and the judicial harassment against independent blogger Miraziz Bazarov. On his social media accounts, Mr. Bazarov advocates for the decriminalisation of consensual same-sex conduct between men in Uzbekistan. In early March 2021, he expressed support for a joint statement calling for the decriminalisation of consensual sexual relations between adult men published by international and national NGOs, including the OMCT and FIDH. Mr. Bazarov has also been outspoken about cases of corruption and the lack of transparency over the use of Covid-19-related funds by the authorities.

On March 28, 2021, Miraziz Bazarov was brutally beaten outside his home in Tashkent by three unknown individuals, causing him serious injuries, including a fractured leg, a concussion and internal bruising. He was subsequently brought to the Republican Clinical Hospital N.1, where he remained hospitalised under police surveillance until April 29, 2021.

Earlier that day, Mr. Bazarov had attended a gathering of Japanese anime and Korean pop music fans in Tashkent, which had to be dispersed as the participants were attacked by a group of individuals who perceived them as members of the LGBTQ+ community. After this assault, the Tashkent police issued a video accusing Mr. Bazarov of inciting protests while promoting homosexuality.

On March 30, 2021, officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) searched Miraziz Bakarov’s apartment without a warrant and seized his computer. The day after, MIA officers searched the flat of Mr. Bakarov’s mother, seized her laptop and Miraziz Bakarov’s video cameras and old mobile phones.

On April 29, 2021, upon his release from the hospital, police officers took Miraziz Bazarov to the Tashkent police department, where he was charged with “defamation” (Article 139 Part 3 (d) of the Criminal Code of Uzbekistan) and “insult” (Article 140 of the same Code). At the time of publication of this urgent appeal, Mr. Bazarov is being held under house arrest pending trial. If found guilty, he could face up to 3 years of imprisonment.

The Observatory strongly condemns the physical attack against Miraziz Bazarov and the judicial harassment against him, which seems to be aimed at punishing him for legitimately exercising his right to freedom of expression online.

The Observatory urges the authorities in Uzbekistan to drop all charges against Miraziz Bazarov and put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him.

The Observatory further urges the authorities to carry out and immediate and transparent investigation into the physical attack against Miraziz Bazarov and take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical integrity and psychological well-being of all human rights defenders in the country, and particularly LGBTQ+ rights defenders.

The Observatory calls on the Uzbek authorities to refrain from using Article 139 of the Criminal Code of Uzbekistan to silence human rights defenders and all dissenting voices, and to comply with President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s commitment to decriminalise the offence of “defamation” in the new draft Criminal Code.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Uzbekistan asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Mr. Miraziz Bazarov and all human rights defenders in the Uzbekistan;

ii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Miraziz Bazarov and all human rights defenders in the country;

iii. Carry out an immediate, thorough, transparent and independent investigation into the above-mentioned physical attack against Mr. Miraziz Bazarov, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law;

iv. Guarantee in all circumstances the right to freedom of expression in the country, as enshrined in international human rights law and particularly in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Addresses:

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Uzbekistan in your respective countries.

***

Paris-Geneva, May 3, 2021

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

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